Matt and I are not native to Montana. We stepped foot in this state for the first time 6 1/2 years ago. And it was in the cab seat of a Budget truck with all of our worldly belongings and our cat. We knew nobody and nothing about our new Montana home. Almost seven years later, it's interesting to reflect back on those first months and those feelings of being a foreigner that we had because it's so far from where we are today.
But let me tell you how it started. We had lived here for three weeks and it was Matt's birthday and it was a Sunday and we were visiting a church in town for the first time. At the end of the service I found the pastor's wife (I don't even remember how I knew she was the pastor's wife) and introduced myself and said we were new in town and were looking to meet people. She immediately brought me over to two young couples that were standing side by side.
After introducing us, she left us to make small talk with our new friends. One couple said, Hey, what are you guys doing for dinner tonight? We have lasagna and a few friends coming over if you want to join us. The other couple said, Hey, what are you guys doing for lunch today? Can we treat you to some place in town?
The second couple went on to become our closest friends. They invited us into every part of their lives. Their family, their vacations, their home, their game nights, their work Christmas parties. Over the next several years, it became second nature for the lot of us to look for those new people or the fringe-ers and say, Hey, what are you guys doing tonight? Want to come over for dinner and games? We knew what it was the be the outsider, the newbie, and we knew what it was to be found out, to have people care and invest, and it was natural to extend that to others. And as a result, we added many more rich friendships into our lives.
In the last couple of years life has changed in nearly every way. Church changed for us. Family changed. Matt started a medical graduate program and spare time became non-existent. We added children. Grief and loss entered our lives.
It became easier and easier to stop looking outward. It became easier to simply (occasionally) look for new faces at church and Bible study, get to know them for a few minutes, shake their hand, smile, and call it good. No more (or few) invitations over for dinner. Rarely, numbers exchanged.
Our lives are full, who can blame us? We have a niche, a system that works, a delicate balance in a season when family time is scarce, we're still healing from loss, relationships that fit and are comfortable and don't require a lot of effort; why would we disrupt that?
Maybe because it doesn't reflect Jesus.
Maybe because it doesn't reflect the way he lived his life and the way the early Christians lived their lives and the way we're exhorted to live our lives. Maybe because Jesus has put his thumb on this area and we can't ignore it any longer.
Listen to me, my friends, and please let me so graciously issue a challenge. I know that easier is....well, easier. I know that when we've found a niche that works, we don't want to disrupt it, interrupt it. We feel like we don't have room for others. Or, more to the point, we simply don't want to make room for others.
But I've been on the fringe. I've been the one to be the newbie. I've been the one to wonder, God, is there a space/place for me here? Do people have room for me in their lives? I know, on a surface level, the answer is yes, but is it actually, in-real-life, tangibly true?
If there is one thing that we long for, it's to know that we matter to others. To know that people care about who we are. But while we can't control other people's actions toward us, we most certainly can control our actions towards others. We can be the one to make room. We can be the one to say, God, I'm available; I'm willing to be uncomfortable. I'm willing to disrupt my niche, my system.
Because here's the thing.
The first couple I mentioned at the beginning? We hung out with them occasionally and always had a good time but we never became close friends. But you know what they gave us that night when they had us over for lasagna? They gave us the gift of community on a day that would have otherwise been very lonely. We brought a cake and sang Happy Birthday, celebrated with new friends, and instead had a wonderful day.
And the second couple? They did become our closest friends. We experienced years of rich friendship and adventures and travel and shared life with them. Several nights a week we got together and had dinner and played games and laughed hysterically and were so richly blessed.
This second couple had years of roots here in Montana. They had close friendships with others and established jobs and a church family but they made room for us anyways. And I think it's safe to say that it's one of the greatest treasures of a friendship we've experienced.
You may be the first couple to someone. Or you may be the second. Reaching out and making room doesn't mean you add imbalance to your life. It doesn't mean that every new person is going to require a best-friendship. It means that in one instance you may simply provide the gift of a home-cooked meal and community to a lonely face. In another, it may mean that you're surprised by the addition of a rich new friendship.
The crux is the willingness of our hearts to make room. The crux is seeing like Jesus did. It's having an eye to look past our circle, to say, That person looks new or out of place or lonely or uncomfortable, I'm going to reach out; I'm going to make room.
Let's make room, my friends. Let's do it together. Let's find someone new to show they matter this week. When we find ourselves heading for the same worn spot by the same familiar people, let's redirect our steps with a prayer, yes?
|Second couple. :) |
Machu Picchu with Chris and Gloria. Just one of our many vacations together.
A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24